Bill would keep Rochelle’s Prairie State coal plant open until at least 2038

A state bill will go before the senate Monday that would keep the Prairie State Energy Campus, which the City of Rochelle has $150 million in debt with until 2042, open until at least 2038.

‘I think this is the best bill we were going to get’

ROCHELLE — A state bill will go before the senate Monday that would keep the Prairie State Energy Campus, which the City of Rochelle has $150 million in debt with until 2042, open until at least 2038.

The energy bill, approved by the Illinois House Thursday, requires Prairie State, in southern Marissa, Illinois, to be carbon-free by 2045, either by going offline or installing sequestration technology. By 2035, the plant must cut emissions by 45 percent. If it doesn’t meet that goal by the end of 2035, the power plant will have until June 30, 2038 to either retire a portion of carbon-emitting units or meet the decarbonization goal some other way.

Gov. JB Pritzker has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. 

Earlier this summer, the city held a press conference to urge the public to reach out to state legislators as it seemed an energy bill could close the plant earlier than expected in 2035. The city buys a large portion of its power from Prairie State and bought into the plant in 2007. 

“I think this is the best bill we were going to get,” Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said. “We’re pleased something is coming. It gives us certainty that Prairie State will be open until 2038. And who knows where the technology will take us to help it remain open longer. Hopefully we can do that and do carbon capture.”

Fiegenschuh said he thinks cutting emissions by 45 percent by 2038 is obtainable in order to remain open longer. Under current technology, he said he’s been told there’s no way to capture 100 percent of emissions as is required by 2045. He hopes technology gets to that point by then. 

Having certainty going forward was “the best news” of the proposed bill, Fiegenschuh said. Another highlight for him was the bill’s language that would keep the Byron Nuclear Plant open through subsidies. 

Rochelle doesn’t purchase energy from Byron directly, but its power ends up keeping Rochelle’s lights on through the local grid. 

“Byron is important for our county economically and it provides power for our area,” Fiegenschuh said. “It’s reliable. We need it on those hot days when power use is high.”

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